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Nursing homes and other assisted living facilities in Arkansas generally have a poor track record when it comes to safeguarding the health and wellbeing of residents and temporary patients.  It seems like you hear stories of understaffing, neglect, and outright abuse in Arkansas nursing homes on a weekly basis. But many elderly individuals and family members don’t understand that objective physical abuse isn’t the only qualifier for mistreatment.  Indeed, Arkansas law allows for individuals to file claims, complaints, and even seek criminal prosecution in cases involving:

  • Neglect
  • Carelessness

In June of last year, the Supreme Court of Arkansas issued a written opinion in a wrongful death case brought by the estate of a woman who died while in the care of the defendant nursing home. In the case, Courtyard Gardens Health and Rehabilitation v. Sheffield, the court was tasked with determining if an arbitration clause contained in a nursing home admission contract was valid when it was signed by an emergency temporary custodian with Adult Protective Services (APS). The court determined that the custodian lacked the authority to consent to arbitration on behalf of the nursing home resident.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in the case, Sheffield, is the administrator of the estate of an elderly woman, Holliman, who died while in the care of the defendant nursing home. Prior to her death, Holliman lived by herself. One day, APS received a complaint about the conditions that Holliman was living in, and an APS worker was sent out to Holliman’s home to check on her well-being.

The APS worker noticed several deficiencies in Holliman’s living situation and petitioned the court to take temporary custody of Holliman in order to find her a better living situation. The petition was granted, and the APS worker was named as Holliman’s custodian. He eventually placed Holliman in the defendant nursing home after signing an admission contract containing an arbitration clause.

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Earlier this month, the Arkansas Court of Appeals issued a written opinion that will be of interest to any putative personal injury plaintiff who signed an arbitration agreement. In the case, Rita v. Gruber, the court held that, although the selected forum mentioned in the arbitration agreement contained in a nursing home admission contract was unavailable, the fact that the parties had agreed to arbitrate means that the plaintiff’s claim must proceed through arbitration.

The Facts of the Case

In 2009, the plaintiff helped her father find housing with the defendant nursing home. The plaintiff had power of attorney for her father, and prior to his admission into the defendant nursing home, the plaintiff signed an admission contract. Contained in the contract was a clause agreeing to submit any future claims to arbitration through the National Arbitration Forum (NAF).

In October 2013, the plaintiff’s father died while in the care of the defendant nursing home. In turn, the plaintiff filed medical malpractice and negligence claims against the nursing home. By this time, the NAF was no longer available to take consumer arbitration cases because the NAF was found to have violated several consumer-protection laws when arbitrating claims and another state had suspended the NAF’s ability to take on new cases.

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The nation’s largest for-profit nursing homes deliver significantly lower quality of care because they typically have fewer staff nurses than non-profit and government-owned nursing homes according to the study by UCSF.

The 10 largest for-profit chains operate about 2,000 nursing homes in the United States. Nursing home chains have expanded recently. The researchers compared staffing levels and facility deficiencies at the for-profit chains to those at homes run by five other ownership groups to measure quality of care. The 10 largest chains were selected because they are influential in the nursing home industry and are the most successful in terms of growth and market share. The study found that for-profit homes keep their costs down by reducing staffing. The 10 largest for-profit chains in 2008 were HCR Manor Care, Golden Living, Life Care Centers of America, Kindred Healthcare, Genesis HealthCare Corporation, Sun Health Care Group, Inc., SavaSeniorCare LLC, Extendicare Health Services, Inc., National Health Care Corporation, and Skilled HealthCare, LLC. According to the report, these chains had fewer nurse “staffing hours” than non-profit and government nursing homes when controlling for other factors. Together, these companies had the sickest residents, but their total nursing hours were 30 percent lower than non-profit and government nursing homes.

The report indicates that the 10 largest for-profit chains were cited for 36 percent more deficiencies and 41 percent more serious deficiencies than the best facilities. Deficiencies include failure to prevent pressure sores, resident weight loss, falls, infections, resident mistreatment, poor sanitary conditions, and other problems that could seriously harm residents. The study also found that the four largest for-profit nursing home chains purchased by private equity companies between 2003 and 2008 had more deficiencies after being acquired. The study is the first to make the connection between worse care following acquisition by private equity companies.

Law enforcement officials shut down a residential care facility in Hot Springs, Arkansas for various fire, building, and safety code violations. Officials from numerous government agencies converged on the home after finding people not getting the care they needed along with open electrical wiring and a lack of smoke detectors.

Data released by the federal government in 2008 found that 95 percent of Arkansas nursing homes were cited for health and safety violations and many of those troubling stats persist. A nursing home patient advocate recently pointed out that there are 234 nursing homes in Arkansas and all the nursing homes except for three percent were cited for violations of the law last year. There were 2,500 reported cases in Arkansas of senior harm, abuse and neglect at nursing homes in 2010 and some of those incidents caused the death of elderly residents.

Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel recently announced that his office is increasing both civil investigations and criminal cases to curb nursing home neglect. Currently, there are over 180 state and federal laws that govern nursing homes and their treatment of the elderly. It is important that family members of nursing home residents stay diligent in making sure the Arkansas nursing home is properly taking care of the resident’s needs.

Residents’ Rights Month 2011 reminds us that residents of long-term care facilities (nursing homes) are part of the community. Community is more than just a nursing home. Residents have the right to continue to participate in activities and other groups that meet outside of the nursing home. This year’s Residents’ Rights Month theme Welcome Home: Creating Connections Between Residents and the Community challenges us to think of creative ways to involve residents in the community and to invite the community into the facilities in the month of October and throughout the year. It is time to bring our elders back into the community at large. As an Arkansas lawyer who represents nursing home residents and their families, this month is important to remind us all that these residents need our attention and our diligence to make sure their needs are being met. If their needs are not met, it is important to hold the nursing home owners responsible so that other residents will not be ignored.

A story recently aired on a local Little Rock, Arkansas television station concerning the quality of Arkansas nursing homes. Unfortunately, abuse and neglect of nursing home patients in Arkansas continues to be a serious problem for Arkansas’ elderly population. Out of the 231 nursing homes that receive Medicare in Arkansas, 32 are rated poorest quality in the National Medicare Rating System. Common injuries included: pressure ulcers (bed sores), dehydration, malnutrition, infections, falls, poor hygiene, elopement, medication errors, assault, and death. Arkansas nursing home residents often become victims of nursing home owners and management that care more about profits than for the people that they are paid to provide care for. The Arkansas nursing homes that currently have a one star rating are:

Arkansas Nursing & Rehabilitation Center

Ash Flat Health Care & Rehabilitation Center

Little Rock, Arkansas has been ranked in the top ten most accident prone cities. According to an article in a popular health magazine, Little Rock ranked fifth in the number of accidents that occur each year. This finding appears to be based upon statistics from the Bureau of Labor, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Medical Association.

As someone who deals with Arkansas accident victims, this finding is quite troubling. Arkansas accident injuries include car accident injury, on the job injury, slip and fall injury, motorcycle accident injury, truck accident injury, dog bite injury, medical injury, and nursing home abuse injury. Arkansas personal injury victims have a right to have their medical bills paid, lost wages paid, pain and suffering fairly compensated and be fully compensated for their damages.

If you or a family member has suffered a personal injury in Arkansas, please contact an experienced Arkansas personal injury lawyer to make sure your injuries are fully and fairly compensated.

The Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 states that the resident has a right to be free from physical or chemical restraints for the purpose of discipline or convenience. Since this nursing home law was passed, the percentage of nursing home residents that are restrained has dropped. According to Medicare, an average of 21.1% of residents were restrained daily in 1991. That percentage dropped to 8.5% in 2003 and continued to drop to 5.5% in 2007. Unfortunately, according to a recent USA Today article, Arkansas is one of four states that has a greater than 10% use of restraints in nursing homes according to a 2007 report.

Fortunately, Arkansas nursing home residents’ families can access a nursing home’s quality measures through the Nursing Home Compare government website. I highly recommend that all families that have a loved one in an Arkansas nursing home review this nursing home information before placing their family member in an Arkansas nursing home. Along with use of physical restraints, the quality measures include the percentage of nursing home residents who suffer moderate to severe pain, the percentage of Arkansas nursing home residents that suffer pressure sores, the percentage of nursing home residents with urinary tract infections, and the percentage of Arkansas nursing home residents who lose weight during their residency. The review of this information is one tool that a family can use to decide where to place their family member when nursing home care is needed.

If you suspect a loved one has suffered from nursing home abuse or neglect, please contact an Arkansas nursing home abuse lawyer to discuss your legal options.

A new report entitled Trends in Nursing Home Deficiencies and Complaints was released September 28, 2008 by the United States Department of Health and Human Services. This report is the product of the Government’s attempt to address the chronic and systemic problem with nursing home care.

Unfortunately, Arkansas nursing homes did not do well in the report. According to the Inspector General, 97.9 percent of the nursing homes in Arkansas were cited for deficiencies. The most common deficiency categories were quality of care, resident assessment, and quality of life. The government report also found that for-profit nursing homes were more likely to be cited than non-profit or government homes.

Although this report is not surprising, it shows that nursing home patient families must keep a watchful eye on the care given to their loved ones. Some of the most common injuries and signs of neglect concern pressure sores(also known as bed sores), dehydration, malnutrition, infection, falls, hygiene, elopement, medication errors, assault and death.

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